LIFE ON MARS
Scientists believe humans could be living on the Red Planet by 2030 – but there are still major obstacles to overcome
NEXT to Earth, Mars is the planet in our solar system that’s most habitable to humans. With Earth’s resources dwindling and its population expanding, colonising Mars could help humankind survive. Let’s take a look at what life on the Red Planet would require.
Colonisers will need to grow fruit and vegetables to eat. As Mars’ atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide and its soil doesn’t have enough nutrients, plants would need to be grown in special pressurised greenhouses that would also protect them against freezing temperatures and violent dust storms. Fortunately there’s enough sunlight.
In order to survive the lack of oxygen, low air pressure and icy cold temperatures, humans would need to wear special spacesuits whenever venturing outside
Humans need water to survive. There’s evidence that Mars not only has a northern polar ice cap, the soil close to its equator also contains a lot of ice. Microwaving the soil could melt the ice so water could be extracted.
Earth’s liquid core gives it a magnetic field that protects its ozone layer from being stripped away. The ozone layer in turn protects living things against most of the sun’s radiation. Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field so a lot of solar radiation reaches its surface and colonisers would need radiation-shielded accommodation.
Humans need oxygen to survive. Scientists could collect the abundant carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere, compress it and use an electric current to split its molecules into oxygen and carbon monoxide atoms. The oxygen would be tested for purity and stored, and the carbon monoxide vented back into the atmosphere.
Communication on Mars would be made via radio waves. To avoid obstructions, signals would have to be beamed to orbital satellites then relayed back to the ground.
All-terrain vehicles such as this could be used by astronauts on scientific missions.
ENERGY FROM THE SUN
Using solar panels would be a logical way to harvest electricity on Mars, but it would be more difficult than it is on Earth. Not only is Mars further from the sun, the planet is plagued by massive dust storms that sometimes block it out. This means alternative power sources would also need to be developed.
Even after the first settlers have set up their base on Mars, further exploration of the planet will need to occur to find further hospitable places to colonise.
Communities would be set up with enclosed walkways that connect individual dwellings. This would make it possible for humans to move between dwellings without having to wear a spacesuit.
Spacecraft and the complex scientific instruments they carry require a safe, reliable and long-lasting power source. A nuclear battery – a thermoelectric generator that converts heat into electricity – would be able to provide the required power.
To explore the surface of Mars, astronauts would have to use pressurised rovers that are capable of travelling large distances. With only a third of Earth’s gravity and an atmosphere that consists mainly of carbon dioxide, Mars presents challenges for humans and vehicles alike.
SUPPLIES Supplies sent from Earth to supplement the outpost on Mars.